Monday, July 16, 2012

Everybody talks about climate change but the candidates

Posted By on 07.16.12 at 02:25 PM

Colorado forest fires
  • David Shub
  • Colorado forest fires
The weather is miserable this summer all across America, but what's to be said or done? The first casual in the New Yorker's Talk of the Town this week is headlined "The Big Heat," and to increase the odds that readers will choose to think about what they're suffering, author Elizabeth Kolbert begins with a tease:

"Corn sex is complicated."

Kolbert has a lot more on her mind than carnal corn. "Along with the heat and the drought and the super derecho [devastating thunderstorms]," she writes, "the country this summer is also enduring a Presidential campaign. So far the words 'climate change' have barely been uttered. This is not an oversight. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have chosen to remain silent on the issue, presumably because they see it as just too big a bummer."

But climate change is what's behind this heat, argues Kolbert, a frequent writer on the subject, and much worse is ahead. And what we don't do about it now will come back to haunt us big time in 30 or 40 years.

Here's my question: is Obama being smart? Surely Romney is. Republicans like to deny climate change, and their fallback position is that if it is happening human conduct has nothing to do with it. Democrats disagree—but so long as the weather's unusually pleasant, like this spring, they sound like Chicken Littles when they raise warnings.

But this heat wave can't be denied. If it were a crime wave of the same magnitude, the public would be screaming for action and the candidates would be talking about little else. Is a heat wave that different, and is Obama missing a bet by leaving it alone? If Obama were to ask for votes on the grounds that the heat and drought we are all enduring must be confronted, would voters rally around him? Or would we think what Obama seems to think we'd think—who does this guy think he is? Is he some nutty Canute? It's too late, too late. Maybe tomorrow will be nicer.

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